New Home Energy Saving Loan takes the pain out of upgrading your home's energy efficiency
Robyn Hamilton
Staff Writer

Taking the plunge to make your home more energy efficient just got a whole lot easier. Retrofit Energy Ireland Ltd (REIL) has teamed up with credit unions with the support of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to launch a simple “zero money up-front” model to allow people to improve the energy rating of their home.

We recently wrote a guide to the SEAI’s extensive range of home energy efficiency grants, which give energy customers a real incentive to upgrade their homes and to make long-term savings as well as improve their home’s energy rating.

This new scheme, which was launched by the Solution Centre (a collaboration of credit unions that supply product development and business support to Ireland’s credit union sector) makes it easy to access SEAI grant funding of 35% towards the cost of approved energy upgrades to an applicant’s home, with easy to access low-cost finance for the balance of the costs being provided by participating credit unions.

The “Home Energy Saving Loan” is an innovative partnership between credit unions and Retrofit Energy Ireland Ltd (REIL) with the support of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Making energy efficiency easy for everyone

The biggest barriers that many have towards actually taking measures to improve home energy efficiency is the perception that it will be too much hassle and of course, that it will be too expensive.

Speaking on why the idea for the Home Energy Saving Loan Scheme was developed, Cathal Tyther, Manager of the Solution Centre, said;

“If we want homeowners to be persuaded to significantly improve the energy efficiency of their homes, we need to make it easy for them to do so, and to help them overcome the “challenges” that are currently putting people off.”  

REIL take on the role of programme coordinators and are responsible for the procurement and completion of all works, while SEAI is providing a 35% grant for work completed and the rest of the funding can be received from the participating credit union at a discounted rate. Based on the pilot study, participants are typically expected to borrow between €7,000 and €10,000 and spend between €10,000 and €15,000 on their homes.

Paddy Sweeney of REIL said;

“With this initiative, we have taken all the “leg-work” away from the homeowner. All they need to do is fill out an application form, after which REIL will conduct an assessment on their property and present them with a report. They can then decide whether or not they would like to proceed. Absolutely no money changes hands until all improvements have been made. From beginning to end, the input required by the homeowner is minimal.

The way this Scheme is structured, there is easy access to grant funding which will significantly reduce the cost (by 35%), while the repayments on the credit union loan funding the balance of the costs of works can typically be expected to be largely offset by the reduced energy cost in the majority of cases. The payback periods can be relatively short, particularly for items such as cavity wall insulation, boiler controls and replacing an open fire with a solid fuel stove. This means many people funding this with a credit union loan over 5-7 years could be turning a profit within 5 years as well as having a cosier house from the get-go.”

Speaking at the launch of the scheme, Kevin Johnson, CEO of CUDA, the representative and lobby group for many of Ireland’s largest credit unions and is the organisation behind the Solution Centre, commented:

“We expect uptake to be huge. We have already rolled out a pilot scheme in Dublin in 2017 which was a great success. The approved energy upgrades are wide-ranging and include attic insulation, cavity insulation, solar thermal panels (hot water), internal drylining insulation, windows upgrades, external wall insulation, windows & doors upgrades, gas or oil boiler upgrades with heating controls, air source heat pump, heating controls and solid fuel stoves.

The scheme will initially be piloted across 6 large credit unions with a membership of over 200,000 at promotional interest rates of 6.99% or less, but we expect it to be rolled out to many more credit unions in 2019.”

How does the scheme work?

If you’re interested in availing of The Home Energy Saving Loan, there are a number of steps that must be completed. These are as follows:

  1. The client fills in an Expression of Interest (EOI) form and hands it into a participating credit union.
  2. The EOI form is sent to REIL and they arrange a Home Energy Survey.
  3. Once the survey is complete, the applicant is issued with a report and given 30 days to decide on whether they wish to proceed or not.
  4. If they decide to proceed, the applicant picks what upgrades they wish to complete. Once the cost of works not including the grant has been identified, a loan application is submitted to the credit union for this amount at a special interest rate of 6.99% or less. Once loan approval is given, REIL will proceed to arrange procurement of contractors to complete the works.
  5. Once works are complete, REIL inspects all works to ensure they are up to SEAI standards. Once all work is approved a post-BER assessment takes place and the loan is advanced to cover the cost of works.
  6. Once payment is received, REIL issue the client with a receipt of payment.

What are the benefits of upgrading your home’s energy efficiency?

There are three main benefits to upgrading your home’s energy efficiency.

Firstly, depending on what energy efficiency measures you undertake, you should see your energy bills decrease quite a bit! Something as simple as properly insulating your walls could help you save 30% of your home’s heat from escaping.

Secondly, the comfort levels of your home should increase - if you’re not losing heat all the time, you should find your house to be a lot toastier - especially in winter time when it really counts!

Finally, you’ll reduce your emissions: Quite simply, reduced heat loss leads to reduced energy consumption which leads to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.  

Which credit unions are participating in the pilot scheme?

  • Blanchardstown and District
  • Capital (Dundrum, Sandymount, Drimnagh)
  • Community (Castleknock, West Cabra)
  • Core (Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey, Foxrock)
  • Dubco
  • South Dublin (Stillorgan)

What kind of home energy efficiency upgrades are available?

If you’re interested in learning more about how to upgrade your home’s energy efficiency, you should definitely check out our guide to the SEAI’s home energy efficiency grants, or if you’re looking for some quick ways to reduce your energy consumption, check out our top ten ways to use less electricity and save money.  

Here's a quick interview with the CEO of the SEAI, Jim Gannon: